The Daily Manila Shimbun


AFP says no basis for accusing them of militarizing schools, curbing academic freedom

August 23, 2019

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the accusation of militarization of schools and curtailment of academic freedom against the military are baseless.

"We do not find basis in the accusation that giving access to military personnel in schools is militarization and will translate to curtailment of academic freedom," said Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, in a statement issued Friday.

"The entry in schools by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will not be in the scale and magnitude of a combat deployment," he said.

"The activities of soldiers that may be in the nature of communication engagements is not militarization," he added.

Arevalo said the military does not have any intention to intervene in the job of  teachers and school officials.

"There is no curtailment of academic freedom because we do not intend to and will not intervene in the determination of what subjects to be taught, who will teach, and how it will be taught," he said.

"But we draw the line between that of a valid exercise of such freedom and that of corrupting the minds of students— especially minors using a premeditated and systematic process of instilling hatred and indoctrination —taking advantage of their idealism and social imperfections— until they take up arms to overthrow government through rebellion or insurrection where many of them die. The latter we cannot allow," he added.

Arevalo also noted that "if the oppositors to the proposal invoke academic freedom (AF) , they should define what constitutes it."

"If by AF they mean students and members of the faculty able to speak their minds openly; express their grievances freely; and criticize government and its agencies fearlessly, then they are already enjoying the freedom to do that!," he said.

"As a matter of fact the AFP supports that. We help protect their freedom of assembly, of speech, and redress of grievances," said Arevalo.

"What is so worrisome with soldiers engaging the students during or information campaigns; in lectures during symposia; as trainers in subjects like Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response and Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism; or as speakers during commencement exercises?," he added.

The AFP spokesman explained the "curtailment of academic freedom is when members of the faculty leave students no choice but attend rallies and demonstrations."

"There is deprivation of academic freedom when students are not afforded opportunity to listen to views and opinions from all sides—even from perceived adversaries—for them to make an informed judgement or an intelligent stand," he said.

"They pay lip service to academic freedom when they block the opportunity for students to hear the side of the AFP/government on the many accusations hurled against it while they allow NPA recruiters access to the campuses wittingly or unwittingly," he added. Robina Asido/DMS